Atlético Madrid’s form in front of goal, this season, has been worrisome to say the least. In the first of a three part series, we take a look at just what has been going wrong recently.
The team managed to find the net a disconcerting number of times, only 34 goals in 19 games so far in La Liga. This meant we only managed ≈2.0 (1.8) goals/game, which might sound good but in reality isn’t.
Critics have been finger-pointing various scapegoats. Most commonly they suggest that our lack of goal scoring is due to strikers’ poor form, lack of creativity in the middle or Simeone’s choice of tactics. Some argue that it could be all three at the same time.
Let us have a look at the middle of the park. Our midfielders managed to create 190 scoring opportunities in 19 games, in La Liga, which averages to 10 chances/game.
The number of chances created is rather enough to bag a goal or two to secure the 3 points. With the average being almost 1.8 goals per game, this means the forwards only utilize 18% of the chances they receive.
Therefore – in theory – the midfield is not entirely to blame, though some question the flair and creativity of players El Cholo opts in fielding. This is an issue to be discussed separately, as it is not within the scope of this article.
Let us evaluate the forwards now. We have previously concluded that Atleti managed to find the net 34 times; out of the 34 only 19 (55%) have been credited to our strikers.
According to those stats, there are 10 chances created per game with only 2% conversion rate – with our strikers responsible for converting only 1%.
Regardless of how poor the midfield is, the data provided clearly shows that there is a critical issue with our strike force. Is the problem due to the lack of quality, form, or partnerships? It could be all of the above.
Atlético are considered a contender for any competition they participate in. To be a contender, you need to have world-class talents at your disposal. However, the only world-class forward available is Griezmann. Not to belittle the likes of Torres, Gameiro or Correa.
The truth is that Torres is not getting any younger therefore his impact the field is decreasing with every game, with the exception of any acts of brilliance. Gameiro is a decent player but he’s not world-class. He has reached his peak and his performance will only spiral downwards.
Correa, on the other hand, is not world-class yet but he definitely has what it takes. He has a long road ahead of him before he can be considered world-class.
If Atleti are to actually contend for major silverware, then another world-class addition is required while warding off suitors for Griezmann.
This however is not an option for the foreseeable future, as Atleti could potentially face a two-window transfer ban. With that being said, with the quality of players at Simeone’s disposal we should be finding the net a lot more.
Given that our midfielders manage only 10 chances per game, it is crucial that the strikers perform up to standards in order to be clinical in front of goal.
Our star forward, Griezmann, kicked off the season superbly but has slumped into a rather extensive drought. Griezmann has a total of 1621 minutes, from 19 matches, under his belt managing to get on the scorehseet only 8 times and provided 4 assists.
The Frenchman might have his shooting boots on the wrong foot, as his shot accuracy stands at low 57%. His height and physical prowess clearly leaves him vulnerable in the air with a success rate of 35% of 48 aerial duels.
He clearly is not playing his best football as his dribbling stats clearly show, a mere 48% success rate from 31 take-ons. This isn’t acceptable from a player given the freedom to roam in the final third and channeling in the flanks.
There is too much pressure on Griezmann as the fans expect him to be the match winner every time, so the Frenchman must find his shooting boots soon rather than later.
The other, less prominent, Frenchman has a total of 1196 minutes, from 19 matches with 5 of them coming off the bench. He has managed to convert only 6 goals and create 4 more.
Gameiro has an even lower shot accuracy success rate that his compatriot with 50%. He isn’t performing well aerially with a successs rate of 28% out of 40 challenges.
His ball control and composure, in the six yard, has been woeful though he does seem to pose a threat on the counter with his pace. He, too, must start converting chances to ensure his continuity in the team next season.
Torres has a total of 565 minutes, from 15 matches with 11 coming on from the bench. He managed to convert 2 chances and creating 2 more.
Being involved in 4 goals from 15 appearances is rather low for a player of his caliber. His shot accuracy sits at a troubling 50%.
For a player boasting a height advantage, he only has a success rate of 41% of 37 aerial challenges. For a player utilized mostly as a target man, his stats clearly show he has been sub par.
Correa has a total of 714 minutes, from 16 matches with 10 coming off the bench. He has managed to score only 3 goals while creating 4 more. Angelito boasts the highest shot success rate out of all our forwards with a 64% shot accuracy.
His height disadvantage is clearly a problem as he managed to win only 25% of 20 aerial duels. For a player that boasts immense dribbling skills, only 43% success rate of 65 take ons is rather troubling.
The young Argentine has great potential, but he does need to improve his composure in the final third.
The striker is the position mostly scrutinized after a scoreless game, and fairly so given that it is their job to score. The forwards need to step it up a notch, if Atléti is to secure a champions league group stage berth.
We deduced that the forwards haven’t been up to par. This could be that the forwards may not be cohesive with one another. Griezmann and Gameiro showed glimpses of magic upfront at times, but have mostly been woeful.
This is partly due to the style of play that hampers their own styles of play. The French duo thrive in fluid attacking football that builds rapidly from deep into their half.
Though the two are relatively good at latching onto long balls, their physique hinders them when forced to compete with the opposition defence, that lay deep, in the air.
However, against teams that implement a high defensive line they have the opportunity to shine.
Torres and Correa seem to show signs of positivity. Most memorably against Barcelona earlier this season, when the two linked up to bag the equalizer. Torres is usually deployed as a target man that receives long balls, holds up play and distribute upfront to second strikers such as Correa.
The reason why this partnership has been more fruitful than Torres and Griezmann or Gameiro is because Correa usually shadows the target man while Griezmann usually drifts wide and Gameiro’s ineffectual positioning, thus rendering Torres obsolete.
Gameiro and Correa sounds intriguing on paper, however on the pitch it could prove to be largely ineffectual and at times completely useless. This is due to the fact that neither are clinical upfront.
Griezmann and Correa could work given that Simeone alters his philosophy, as it clearly doesn’t suit the duo when they play together.
The most flourishing partnership was the French connection, which is evident as they started in our highest goal-scoring matches against the likes of Granada, Malaga, Osasuna, Celta and Gijon.
However, a common element in all these matches was the inclusion of Koke and Correa on the flanks, with the exception of the match against Villarreal where personal errors cost them the 3 points.
Though when Torres and Correa are introduced in the second half, as subs, they usually preform quite well bagging a goal or creating one too.
We can now conclude that our form in front of goal is major factor in the lack of goals, however the partnerships upfront are as crucial.
Another thing worth noting is that when Saul is played on the flanks with either Carrasco or Correa, Atleti usually perform badly. Which calls for another article tackling the midfield partnerships.
Who would you start in attack if you were Cholo?